The Strong Man

“We end up tied up in the corner begging for another drink, another hit, searching for a bigger thrill because it always takes more and more— and Jesus? Well, he is shoved into the closet. ‘He’ll be fine in there, a few verses of amazing grace and a communion wafer now and then is all he needs.’”

David and Goliath

“Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.” Mat 12:29

I grew up in the 70’s convinced that drugs were bad. I had heard horror stories about what happens to people who succumb to such debasement. I was raised by truckdrivers and cowboys and only flea infested long haired hippies did drugs. I started drinking now and then when I was fourteen, fifteen, but that was a man’s reward for a job well done and was socially acceptable. So, when I went into Job Corps at seventeen I was hardcore cowboy fresh from working summers and weekends at ranches and auction yards. I was anti—drug with no desire whatsoever to smoke any whacky tobacky.

But, after being there several months, sequestered in the mountains with a lot of other guys that I considered friends, I discovered that a lot of them smoked the stuff—guys that were in the Heavy Equipment training program with me, the cool tuff guys. A group I had never fitted in with before back home. In the evening there was often a bunch of guys that would sneak off into the mountains around the center, sit in a circle and get stoned. It was the Seventies Show in the wilderness.

I would often go along just to get out of the dorm but I would pass on the inevitable joint going around. Beer was my drug of choice—too bad there wasn’t any around. It was a lot easier to smuggle in a bag of weed than it was a six pack of beer.

Then one Saturday afternoon I said ‘What the heck, I’ll try it.’ This was after a lot of encouraging from my friends of course. I mean, they didn’t seem to have fleas, in fact they all had short hair—it was required to be in the Heavy Equipment program—not by choice, it was the seventy’s after all—and they all seemed pretty normal to me.

So I smoked my first weed. It gave me a headache and I went back to the dorm and slept the rest of the afternoon—‘Yay, wasn’t that fun.’

A while later I tried it again. This time, sitting there in that circle in the trees, I got really buzzed. And suddenly everything everyone said was just hilarious. ‘Wow, this was even better than alcohol!’ Even though I was paranoid about getting caught, afraid the staff would see my goofy grin and notice the lovely burnt rope odor emanating from my otherwise redneck appearance, I couldn’t wait to do it again, and again, and again. Soon I was getting stoned every day and even started to smuggle in my own weed.

Somehow I still managed to graduate the program without getting caught and when I graduated Job Corp I just went nuts with the partying and was soon into much harder stuff, always looking for the next thing that would give me that buzz that made everything hilarious and all my friends so fun to be with.

That’s a whole other story that did not turn out so well in the end as the Lord intervened by allowing my life to basically fall apart. But it would take five long years and a genuine miracle from the Lord before I could overcome my need to be stoned all day every day on the weed and to be able to give up all the other bondages I had acquired during that period.

I wasted some of the best years of my life; being stoned, and I am talking about marijuana—the not so bad drug of choice, the other drugs came and went—being stoned on weed robbed me of my ambition, my energy, my confidence, my relationship with my Lord and my sense of who I really was, actually my sense in general. I was in bondage simply because I decided one day to try something, no big deal, just a time or two—and just a little.

I could tell you nearly the same story about drinking, about pornography, about tobacco—both cigarettes and snoose, about speed—on and on. I have been addicted to it all. Things I never thought I would be dumb enough to do yet would find myself craving over and over and over again—that’s a bondage and that is an opportunity for the enemy to come in and do whatever he wants, to kill, steal and destroy.

And that is exactly what he does—unless you cry out to Jesus, trust him and his word, repent and be set free. Restored as the strong man of your house—both the Temple that is your body and the home you are supposed to be building for you wife, your kids, your grandkids or whomever the Lord entrusts you to influence.

Only Jesus can truly free you from bondages that destroy, that render you useless for the Kingdom of God and ineffective as a protector and provider for you family. We have a much higher purpose, dad’s, then just surviving and numbing the flesh with the things that it demands. We are the strong man, we are the guardians of the hearts of our children for as long as they are under our roofs or you give them away in marriage.

And even then you are a spiritual covering as your prayers, depending on your righteousness, are powerful and effective in protecting them from the evil one. You are the protector of your wives’ heart as well, the one whom you vowed to love, cherish and cling to only, for as long as you both shall live.

But you cannot do that if you are in bondage, if there is anything apart from your Lord and your wife that is more important to you, that you cannot give up or get through a week or even a day without. Anything that causes her grief when she thinks of your need for it, anything you would be horrified to learn your kids were also doing—you need to break free from that.

I am the warrior

Would You?

Ask yourself this next time you indulge; Would you drink that, would you smoke that, would you watch that, if Jesus were standing next to you? You think Jesus doesn’t know? Of course he does, yet he loves you and wants to set you free, free to be the strong man. Choose to be loosed, pick up your bibles, get on your knees and cry out to Jesus and then find some Christian brothers who will stand beside you.

Make it a habit to go to church, fall in love with worship, those are the things—repentance, scripture, worship fellowship—that set and keep me free, and I am no one special, I am just a man like you, a person like you ladies—you are not exempt from this, you need to be the strong woman also.

The rewards are so much sweeter than the temporary thrill of whatever high you are getting from your mind altering, dopamine releasing, hangover inducing, bondages of choice. Kids look to you dads to be strong for them, your wives look to you husbands to be strong for them. The younger men you work with look to you to see how a man is supposed to act. The guys next to you in church look to you to know how a godly man is supposed to cope with this life. What are they seeing?  A strong man living in freedom or a pretender living in bondage?

  43 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Mat 12:43-45

The Salesman

The enemy especially loves to bind Christians. We turn to Jesus, we get the house all cleaned up and ready for company but then there’s a knock on the door and there’s a salesman. Those Kirby vacuum toting, encyclopedia Britannica hocking, Fuller brush pushing type remnants of a day gone by.

Good day sir, I am selling feel good goodies. You’re a man right, the man of this house, the king of this here castle? Your daddy and your granddaddy loved this stuff and they were manly men right? Here, try some of this, by one get one free. Oh, and this here goes great with that, I’ll throw that in free, just this once though. And then—whoa ho ho! —how about this huh? Have you ever seen anything like that before? You know you want it. Here, let me just come in and unpack all this stuff for you, have a seat and re—lax.

We end up tied up in the corner begging for another drink, another hit, searching for a bigger thrill because it always takes more and more— and Jesus? Well, he is shoved into the closet. ‘He’ll be fine in there, a few verses of amazing grace and a communion wafer now and then is all he needs.’

Just keep the blinds closed and the porch lights on and everyone will think your fine—because you are , right?

Depression

Am I the only one who gets visited by this salesman now and then? I know I’m not, I’ve been in this ministry game a long time and I have seen a lot of very full houses. Houses full of everything but what they should be full of—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.”   Mat 12:33

A tree cannot grow both good and bad fruit, the choice is yours, and your family are the ones who have to live with the fruit. But Jesus doesn’t tell us this just to condemn us, he tells us this to give us the way to be loosed. Remember, the whole premise of this story was that the Kingdom power is here, he brought it and he still makes it available to each of us. We just need to clean house, using the power, and then keep it and ourselves unfettered. For those you love if not yourselves.

Jesus said it best— “If the Son sets you free you are free indeed.”

Barbarian meme

Read ‘Barbarians in the Kingdom’

Advertisements

Shield Wall Mentoring

What does it mean to be a man? The barbarian of old had little trouble with this notion; there was little confusion over what it meant to be a man in the barbarian tribes, wherever and whviking-armyenever they were found. The barbarian man’s measure was taken in large part by his strength- physical prowess, his courage and his ability to defend and provide for his family, his home and his clan.

He was not ashamed to be a man nor was he discouraged from being a man—in all his testosterone driven fury and glory. What a difference in where we are today where being a man is almost something we have to apologize for as traditional manly traits are being frowned upon.

Society would make you believe that all women want men who are not just in touch with their feminine side, but live there most of the time and that most men are stupid, bumbling or egoistical idiots who need to be retrained and tolerated, softened and civilized; interesting, you never see a pencil necked geek wearing skinny jeans and wielding a smart phone on the cover of a romance novel– just saying.

Does the barbarian in the heart of all women really want a man to be just a woman with a deeper voice? I think when it comes down to it, a woman wants a man to be a man, a man wants a woman to be a woman and that’s a barbarian notion that’s hard to shake, and I contend should not be shaken, in spite of what the world tells us.

I think many of our young men today are having an identity crisis. I see it at work, I see it in the churches—everywhere, young men getting more and more frustrated, confused and angry because they aren’t allowed to be men.

Most of them don’t have real men teaching them how to be a man- how to contain and direct the barbarian inside aching to be loosed, so they either act like immature idiots or they just become subjugated doormats wondering why the woman they have bowed down to does not respect them. Women, whether they admit it or not, need heroes and leaders. And men need to be heroes and lead, this goes back to that love and respect thing we find spelled out in the scriptures; a woman needs to feel loved and a man needs to feel respected.

…let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Eph 5:33

Barbarian Mentoring

I think we need barbarian mentoring. The barbarians in the kingdom need to rise up and take the next generation under their wings and show them what it means to be a man, we need to invite them to stand with us side by side in the shield wall. This sounds like a huge task but it’s really not, unless of course you do not know what it means to be a man. Guys my age or older—baby boomers—had an advantage, we were raised by the generation of warriors that saved the world from Nazism and Imperialist Japan.

We had fathers or grandfathers, uncles and bosses who fought in a world war, together as men with a single simple purpose; to save the world, including their own homes and families, from an enemy that they were allowed to call an enemy, to fight a fight that they were allowed to win, and did win. And they returned home from the battlefields with that same spirit of accomplishment and pride and together build a better life for their families.

They were allowed and encouraged to work hard, and the harder they worked, the better off they were. These men were raised during the great depression so they never took work for granted, nor anything else for that matter—they were men who raised sons to be men. Where did we lose that? I contend that we didn’t, it just got tucked away as we got too comfortable living the fruits of what those men, and women, built for us. We just need to allow ourselves to once again be the men that our collective fathers and grandfathers were, God fearing, hard-working, sacrificially loving men, that’s all.

But that’s not enough, here is the key element; men need to always affirm the next generation of men. It’s a curious thing that a boy will never feel like a man, until someone who is a man in their eyes, tells them they are a man, preferably their father. We no longer have rites of passage that mark the day when a boy becomes a man. We no longer expect anything of our young men and we no longer demand that they act like men. Personal responsibility and accountability has gone out the window and we have become an entitlement society ‘I am entitled to a pay check, I am entitled to health care, a smart phone, a car, an education, a place to live, internet—you name it, even if I didn’t lift a finger to earn it.’

On the other hand we don’t acknowledge hard work and responsibility like we should either—it just wouldn’t be fair to everyone else. ‘Here’s your participation trophy and a Pizza.’ We need to tell a young man when he has done the right thing, to acknowledge and affirm; ‘I sure appreciate the hard work you did, nice job.’ I always thank the guys who work on my construction jobs at the end of the day. If a guy knows you appreciate the effort he put into doing the job you asked him to do, he will come back the next day and work at it even more diligently. You have to give respect to get respect.

Respect is the food that fuels the heart of the man. A boy looks for material gain and only takes, a man looks for and gives respect, and a man who is respected is able to love.

So what gets the boy across the line to manhood?—like I said, affirmation, that point in time when he was respected and affirmed as a man. Women won’t understand this and that’s fine, we’ll talk about the barbarian women next time, but right now trust me that you also need to hear this for the sake of the men in your life– a man needs to hear these words or he will struggle with being a man for the rest of his life- here are the words; I am proud of you. And they need to come from a father, or at least a Father figure. It doesn’t hurt to hear them from his wife either.

You can take that to the bank. That is the respect pivot point between being a boy and becoming a man. Affirmation. Ladies, don’t doubt me on this and don’t poo poo it as silly.

Only a man who has been affirmed as a man can stop acting like a boy who is trying to get attention. Only a man who is comfortable in his manliness can be tender to his woman without seeming like a girly man. Only a man who is secure in his manliness can see the world through the eyes of his children without being immature and childish. Only a man who has been affirmed can rest at the end of a hard day without feeling like a loser. Only a man who has been affirmed can look in the mirror and like what they see.

 

Be the Dad

 

A Secure Fortress


daddy daughter

-Not so many years ago, Donna and I were sitting in the office of a modular home dealer when we got a phone call from our oldest daughter Cally.  She was calling to tell us she had just been in a wreck, after she assured us she was okay we headed to the scene and arrived to find her and her friend Sarah standing on the sidewalk talking to the elderly gentleman she had run into.  She was 17 or so and still fairly new at the driving thing and while driving down busy 24th street west in Billings, she had gotten distracted by a radio station’s set up in the Mall parking lot and didn’t notice the car in front of her stopping until it was too late… wham!  She rear-ended a car on in the minivan we had just given her to drive.

She was very shaken up, mostly from being slammed in the face by the air bag and worried about wrecking the van.  Donna gave her a hug and made sure she was ok.  I then talked to the man she had hit, made sure the insurance info had been exchanged, the cops had been called, the toxic airbag dust had been cleaned off her face, checked the damage to the vehicles and assured Cally in my best daddy has it handled voice that everything was going to be ok.  All the things that needed to be done were done- or so I thought.

As we stood together on the sidewalk waiting for the police to arrive I saw that she was still visibly shaken so I grabbed her in a big bear hug and she just fell apart- sobbing and shaking as I held her until she got it all out.  Then she was ok.

In the days to follow I found myself going back to that moment over and over, dwelling on that moment when Cally had melted in my arms; and it made me feel good.  It was a special moment; why did it make me feel good?  I mean, this was probably one of her worst days to this point, she felt awful and I certainly took no delight in her anguish.  But it was special to me because I knew at that moment, that she trusted me.  It was special to me because I was a refuge for her, a place where she felt safe, safe to fall apart, to be scared, to be weak and to let those things go.

I had arrived and taken care of business and that was important, but that was not enough.  Because I had established a relationship of trust with her over years, she knew she had a safe place to turn−a refuge.  And it told me that I had done my job as a father.  That is why it was special to me.  If you ask me, any man that does not want to be his child’s hero is no man at all.  Being that hero means being there.

As the old proverb says:

 “He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26

I believe every man has a God given desire to protect, defend and provide.  He is naturally jealous for those he loves and given the opportunity, or the provocation, this instinct can be a passionate, all-consuming drive.  It is knowing how to channel this drive, how to keep it going in a healthy direction that is hard because there are many other things wired into us that confuse our good intent.  Some of these other things are good, some are bad.  This desire to protect, defend and provide are a reflection of the Lord in us as men who are created in his image.

A famous old preacher named G. Campbell Morgan once wrote:

“Sometimes we say that God has taken our name “father” in order to teach us what he is. That is not a correct statement.  God has lent us his name, Father, in order to teach us what we ought to be.” 

It is by sticking close to the Lord, meditating on his word, that we keep that father drive in us headed in the right direction.  It’s more like a hard drive in us, and like a computer’s hard drive it can get viruses and even be wiped out.  That is why fathers sometimes hurt those they are supposed to protect, why they give up and leave, they have let the lies of the flesh dominate their thinking, the selfishness instead of the selflessness of the spirit.

The best way to operate correctly in the father mode of the Lord is to tap into the Spirit of the perfect Father, the Father who loves, protects and provides.  The Father who lets us choose our way and teaches us the consequences of bad decisions, who teaches us that life is hard but that we will get through it, even enjoy it, if it is lived in him, with him, and for him.

Women have this desire to love protect and provide but it manifests itself in a very different way; a way that compliments the father’s way and brings balance to a child’s life.  A woman’s protecting, nurturing and providing is best done under the umbrella of the husband, this is the submission and respect part in the scriptural roles of a functional family.  Mother’s provide primarily from what the father has provided, they protect while being protected by the father, the strong fortress, and they love sacrificially while being loved sacrificially.

Dad’s, you have a solemn duty to guard the fortress you have been entrusted with, use the weapons of the Spirit to guard, and your hands to provide and bless those within your fortress- Never to hurt or do harm.

I guarantee you, your children will one day face monsters much bigger than fender benders in front of the mall−will they still come to you? If you are there with a loving and strong arms today−they will.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Eph 6:13

Adapted from the book: Hope For Families by Dan Swaningson

Happy Father’s Day!